Parental involvement improves reading

The results of a program in which parents were involved in teaching their children to read indicates that there are long-term positive effects. Hewison, an English researcher, conducted a follow-up study of children in the Haringey Reading Project.

The Haringey Project involved guiding parents from poor, urban schools in helping their children to read. Researchers visited homes and gave simple guidance to parents in using materials that teachers sent home with their children.

Children in the Haringey Project were separated into experimental and control groups. With respect to reading skills, there were no significant differences among these groups of children when the project began. The experimental group was divided – half to receive extra parental help and half to receive extra help from a teacher.

At the end of the 2-year project, children who had received help from their parents were reading better than comparable children who had not received any extra help, or who had received extra teacher help.

Children made greater strides with parental help

Hewison, in her follow-up study, administered the London Reading Test to 11-year-olds who had been involved in the Haringey Project from ages 6 to 8. Results on the test demonstrate unequivocally that children whose parents were involved in helping them learn to read were still reading better at 11 years of age than comparable students who had not received such help.

Parental help affected both good and poor readers – fewer children failed to reach grade level on the test and more scored significantly above average than in other groups. This held true compared to the national distribution of scores on this test. This indicates that, in this study at least, students did retain benefits from parental involvement in the beginning years of reading instruction.

Hewison concludes that in a poor, socially disadvantaged school district, the “very personal and supportive approach adapted by the researchers… had an impact on families’ beliefs and behavior that was wider and more enduring than anything originally envisaged.”

Hewison notes that other recent studies of parental involvement programs have failed to show benefits. More research, she suggests, is needed in this area.

British Journal of Educational Psychology Volume 58 pp. 184-190.

Published in ERN November/December 1988 Volume 1 Number 1

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